The North Coast 500 in Scotland is a 500-mile route that loops road-trippers around the very top of the Highland coastline. It is celebrated for its diverse scenery and sense of remoteness; while the east part of the journey takes on a flat ‘English countryside’ feel, the rugged west coast winds through steep mountains and paradise beaches.
Read my full NC500 Scotland 4-Day Itinerary, which includes my favourite things to see on the route.
Factors to consider when choosing hotels on the North Coast 500
The famous scenic route offers a wide range of accommodations to travellers. From historic castles to modern boutique hotels, there’s something for everyone on the NC500 – though, in my experience, very little of it comes cheap. If you’re planning an NC500 road trip, it’s worth noting that many places can be booked up from 6 months to a year in advance. This is not a drill, I recommend you get in there quickly – especially when tighter budgets are concerned.
Here are some of the top hotels along the route. When planning our first trip, we split the journey into 4 steps. I’ve now driven this route many times, and I always prefer the journey starting in the east (it leaves the most powerful scenery until last):
- NC500 East Coast hotels, from Inverness to John o’ Groats
- NC500 North Coast hotels, from John o’ Groats to Durness
- NC500 West Coast hotels, from Durness to Lochcarron
- NC500 South Road hotels, from Lochcarron to Inverness
This article has links to places and services I have visited and enjoyed, which I may make a commission from at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me to pay for site hosting and keep my guides free.
North Coast 500 east coast hotels
North Star Glamping Scotland – Budget
There are only 2 pods at North Star Glamping, so you’ll need to get in there fast! It’s one of my favourite nighttime stops on the NC500 because it’s quite far up the coast and allows for an easy start for the next leg of your journey. It also comes with the added bonus of being extremely close to the (often overlooked) Whaligoe Steps. For photos, information, and road sign prompts, see my blog: How to find the Whaligoe Steps and Waterfall.
The luxury pods are owned by a lovely lady named Maggie, who has truly thought of everything (from fluffy towels and wineglasses to coffee machines and playing cards). The pods are perfect for up to 4 people and feel super cosy due to the underfloor heating.
Royal Marine Hotel, Brora – Splurge
Brora’s Royal Marine Hotel was recently purchased by the Scottish hotel chain Highland Coast Hotels. The chain has acquired a number of long-celebrated (but struggling) Highland hotels, with the goal of restoring them to their former glory. The new makeovers come with a modern twist but remain sympathetic to each hotel’s original story.
Royal Marine Hotel, Brora is a prime example of the beautiful makeovers that HCH have accomplished. It sits just a 5-minute walk away from the empty sandy strips of Brora beach and its elegant interiors pay homage to the town’s historic fishing industry roots. The bedrooms are newly refurbished and decorated with stylish nods to the Highlands.
The Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch – Splurge
This is one for golf lovers – seriously! The car park to The Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch rolls straight onto the grounds of the famous Dorncoh golf course, running along the curve of the coast and protected by the beach’s sand dunes. The hotel is also just a quick drive from Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve, home to an abundance of harbour seals, who you can regularly see lazing around near the shoreline.
North Coast 500 north coast hotels
Bettyhill Hotel – Mid Range
Bettyhill Hotel sits proudly on a mound overlooking a larger beach and comes with breakfast beach views. I’ve got to be honest, of all our stays on the NC500, it’s probably the one I was least delighted by, despite the team being friendly and the hotel being clean. My vegan experience was a little ropey; I was served dairy ice cream, despite the menu stating it was vegan, and despite re-iterating that I couldn’t have dairy. The hotel is a good location stop point, but pricey for what you get (when compared to our other stops).
Tongue Hotel – Splurge
Another from the HCH chain, Tongue Hotel is another that has recently undergone a huge makeover. I absolutely love Tongue. The drive into the village winds you through lots of little coastal roads and dramatic cliff-side beach scenery (for which there are a few stop points). The hotel itself is within walking distance of Castle Varrich, a great additional NC500 hidden gem that we completely missed on our first spin around the North Coast 500 route. It’s also close to some incredible beaches that stretch for miles during low tide and often leave you to wander completely by yourself.
From many of the Tongue Hotel’s rooms, you’ll get beautiful views overlooking the Kyle of Tongue, Ben Loyal or Castle Varrich – I particularly love their new Deluxe Feature Room that comes with a window-side bathtub, from which you can take in the sights and sip on the little decanter of complimentary sherry that comes with every room.
North Coast 500 west coast hotels
Kylesku Hotel – Lochside Mid-Range
Kylesku Hotel is quite possibly one of my favourite hotels on the NC500. Its dreamy location right on the shores of Loch Glendhu is an absolute Highland feast for the eyes, especially when you’re looking for a road trip pit stop or a final resting point for the night. They have recently updated their outdoor decking to offer a more comfortable space to enjoy a drink (or sundown) over the loch, and one of my favourite little boat tours goes right from their pier. Their bedrooms are relatively simple but still comfortable and warm.
Newton Lodge Kylesku – Lochside Splurge
Newton Lodge is the sister hotel to Kylesku Hotel, and the two have a shuttle service which means you can go between them and enjoy both bars and restaurants. While both attract the Highland locals, Kylesku Hotel is busier and allows for more socialising, while Newton Lodge brings an air of peace and relaxation.
It’s not uncommon to see the neighbourhood deer drop past the windows of Newton Lodge in the evening, and its rustic bar is an Instagrammers dream. They host regular quiz nights and have a beautiful log fire lounge area to curl up in after dinner. Their bedrooms are some of the cosiest and prettiest on this part of the NC500, and one night never feels like enough for me here. Both of these hotels are only a 5-minute drive from my favourite highlight on the NC500, the unforgettable Wailing Widow Falls. Read my blog: How to get to Wailing Widow Falls, Loch na Gainmhich.
The Torridon – Castle Splurge
If I had a pound for every Scotland newcomer who wanted to add a castle stay to their NC500 itinerary! The Torridon is a pretty iconic hotel amongst the Scots (and travellers). Originally built as a shooting lodge in 1887, it has evolved over time into a renowned luxury retreat. It boasts movie-like views of the Torridon mountains, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a range of outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking. While (not technically) a castle, its turrets and general grandeur are a fair trade-off.
The Plockton Inn – Mid-Range
Plockton Inn is located just mere minutes from the loch beach in Plockton village, also known as the Jewel of The Highlands. The village is renowned for its traditional Highland atmosphere and famous for many TV appearances, including the BBC’s ‘Hamish Macbeth’ series. Owned by a local family for years, this is another of the hotels that the HCH has just acquired and given (a much-needed) makeover. Their new luxury bedrooms are colourful and nod to the natural hues of the area.
North Coast 500 south road hotels
Pammy’s Family Annexe
Pammy’s lovely wee BnB sits neatly to the side of the road overlooking Loch Luichart. Pammy was there to greet us on arrival and told us just to shout on her if we wanted to make use of the fire pits in either the front or back garden. She was warm, friendly and keen to make sure we had everything we needed on our last night. Had the weather been on our side, this would have been a wonderful last stop to sit and sip a glass of wine and reflect on our trip.
Frequently Asked Questions about Accommodation on the NC500
What types of accommodation are available along the NC500?
Alongside the hotels mentioned above, there are multiple accommodation options on the NC500, including additional luxury hotels, cosy bed and breakfasts, charming guesthouses, and some self-catering cottages and campsites. As it grows in popularity and locations put more money behind their offerings, we have seen costs go up in recent years, however, there’s something to suit every traveller’s taste and budget (as long as you book well in advance!)
How far in advance should I book accommodation on the NC500?
To secure your preferred accommodation along the NC500, it’s advisable to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons (between around May to September). While it might sound ridiculous, some spots will run full up to a year in advance – though there is often room for a bit of cancellation availability. Sought-after hotels and B&Bs can fill up quickly, and many people are travelling the route without doing any research on the limited accommodation options (hoping to just be able to book in on the day of arrival – BIG MISTAKE!)
What are the best locations to stay on the NC500?
As above, I recommend (at the very minimum) you break the route into 4 sections. I must add, this will make for quite an intense driving trip of early mornings and late night finishes, if you intend on making sightseeing stops along the journey. Each of my suggested blocks offers unique experiences and access to very different landscapes, so consider your preferences and desired attractions when choosing your base. For a rundown of my favourite NC500 sightseeing stops, read my blog: NC500 Scotland 4-Day Itinerary.
Are pet-friendly accommodations available on the NC500?
Yes, many accommodations on the NC500 warmly welcome furry companions. However, it’s important to check in advance as each establishment may have specific policies and restrictions regarding pets. Be sure to communicate your requirements when making a booking. All of the Highland Coast hotel chain hotels that I mention in this blog have designated dog-friendly rooms.
For more North Coast 500 info, try my other blogs: